Symptoms of Minor Athletic Illnesses: Cough
A cough is one way your body prevents irritating particles that enter your airways from invading your lungs. Viruses and bacteria that cause infection, as well as dust, smoke and pollen, are trapped in the tiny hairs (cilia) that line your air passages, and act as protective barriers. Irritation of these cilia stimulates your cough reflexes.
Whenever you develop a cough, you should determine its cause. For example, a cough at work when inhaling certain noxious chemicals may indicate an allergy to these substances. A cough during pollen season may also suggest allergy. Sometimes drinking hot or cold liquids or getting food “ down the wrong pipe “ can irritate the sensitive airways and provoke a cough.
Whether your cough is “dry” or “wet” will also be a clue to its cause. Irritants such as smoke, dust or allergies can trigger a dry cough. Certain infections such as cold, measles or flu also commonly cause a dry cough. This type of cough should go away when the infections clear up. If it does not, there may be another cause, and you should consult your doctor.
A wet cough means that you are coughing up fluid. In this case, your cough is likely from an infection in your lungs such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Once bacteria get past the protective barrier in the airways and actually invade the lungs, your body produces large amounts of sticky fluid (mucus) as a defense measure. This fluid irritates the lungs, causing you to cough it out. If this mucus is green, yellow, or red- dish-brown, you probably have a lung infection and should seek medical advice. Whenever you cough up bright red blood, see your physician immediately.
If your are a smoker, you may cough every morning. This smoker’s cough could be a symptom of chronic bronchitis. Heavy smokers are much more likely to develop lung infections because nicotine in cigarettes destroys the cilia in the airways, leaving nothing to prevent viruses and bacteria from entering the lungs.
Shortness of breath is a symptom that may occur with or without a cough. Sometimes it comes on so gradually that you notice it only during strenuous activity.
Regardless of when it occurs, this symptom requires your doctor´s immediate attention since it means that you are unable to get enough oxygen into your system.
Because coughing is an important mechanism, you should generally avoid suppressing it. This is especially true of a wet cough. Before taking any cough suppressant, check with your doctor. On the other hand, an expectorant will help you cough up the fluid and possibly shorten you illness.
Expectorants are sold over the counter without a prescription. If your cough persist or is associated with shortness of breath, have your doctor determine the cause and suggest appropriate treatment. As part of an evaluation, the physician may order X-rays, examine and culture the fluid, and/ or perform special breathing test.
Time to be concerned
Anytime you have dry cough persisting for longer than a week without other symptoms of a cold or flu, seek a doctor’s advice. A wet cough suggest a possible lung infection and may require treatment with antibiotics. Although a cough is the most common symptom of respiratory disease, it may also be caused by other problems, such as heart disease. Shortness of breath with or without a cough requires a doctor’s immediate attention.
Time to call your doctor when
- Your dry cough persists for longer than a week and is not associated with a cold or flu.
- You are coughing up green, yellow, or red- dish-brown mucus.
- You cough up bright red blood.
- You are a smoker and you cough every day.
- You are short of breath with or without a cough.
Orthopedic Corner | Leon Mead MD Orthopedic Doctor | 730 Goodlette Road North, Suite 201 Naples Florida 34102 | Phone: (239) 262-1119